How to Cut and Remove Brick: 5 Methods

Cutting Brick by Hand and Using Power Tools

Cutting brick wal

Dan70 / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $15

With today's easy-to-manage materials, such as laminatesengineered wood, and engineered stone, brick can seem like a positively archaic material. In fact, as fewer brick fireplaces and chimneys are being built, working with brick can feel like a lost art, and efforts to cut brick or drill into it might feel intimidating. But working with brick does not have to be difficult. With determination and only a few basic tools, you can cut into installed brick with flawless results.

Excising a single brick while leaving surrounding brick intact and in good shape is often required when a single brick is damaged or stained, a fireplace needs to be refurbished, or a portion of a brick wall or the brick itself needs to be removed to install mechanicals, such as a vent, an electrical outlet, or a plumbing pipe.

5 Methods of Cutting Bricks

The best tools to cut brick include circular saws, angle grinders, reciprocating saws, multi-tools, and manually by using a masonry chisel. Each has its pros and cons:

  • A circular saw fitted with a masonry blade will cut both brick and mortar, producing clean lines, but with a great amount of debris.
  • An angle grinder with a masonry wheel also will cut through both the brick and the mortar and allows for tighter angles. However, debris blow-back is significant.
  • A reciprocating saw with a masonry cutting blade can cut relatively straight lines when the saw is held firmly. But while reciprocating saws allow for plunge cuts in materials like drywall, they don't work so well for masonry walls.
  • A high-quality multi-tool equipped with a masonry attachment does allow for plunge cuts and can be a good way to get the cut started.
  • Cut brick by hand with a masonry chisel and a drill. This method takes patience, but it offers finer control of the process. Using a masonry chisel is also a great way to cut bricks in half, on an angle, or lengthwise by scoring a line down the brick before applying more pressure.

Manually Cutting Installed Brick

The secret to removing a complete brick from a brick wall or brick fireplace is in cutting the surrounding mortar. Dried and set mortar is softer than brick and it cuts away in a predictable fashion. Once the mortar is removed, the entire brick extracts quite easily. However, if your goal is to remove only a portion of the brick, you must remove the mortar as well as sever the brick in a clean line, all without causing the brick to crumble into little pieces.

Make sure to use a genuine masonry chisel. Neither a wood chisel nor a cold chisel (designed for metal) is appropriate for this job. Using either runs the risk of shattering the tool and potentially sending metal fragments flying. This tool is typically a heavier chisel with a more blunt cutting edge designed for breaking mortar, stone, and brick. A masonry chisel can be used to cut brick without any power tools by hammering the back of the chisel into the brick.

Safety Considerations

When manually cutting out a brick or into a brick, take safety precautions by wearing safety glasses, hearing protection, and thick gloves. Drilling or cutting into brick produces a lot of dust, so also wear a dust mask. Be patient and go slowly. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Narrow masonry chisel
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch masonry drill bit
  • Wire brush
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Thick work gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Carpenter's pencil
  • Shop vacuum



  1. Drill Holes in the Brick

    Sculptors often cut large sections of stone by drilling holes in lines and placing explosive charges in the holes. The simultaneous explosion of all of the charges creates a cutting plane. Manually cutting a portion of a brick works in much the same way. Rather than explosive charges, the force of the hammer and chisel blows break the brick along the line of drilled holes.

    Begin by drawing a line across the surface of the brick where you want to cut. Then draw another line about 1/4 inch from the first line in the portion of the brick you'll be removing. You will be drilling into this second line, preserving the first line as a reference.

    Drill a series of holes along this second line, spaced no more than 1/4 inch apart. Unless you are using a hammer drill, you will need to push hard on the drill and even wiggle it around just a bit, but take care not to break off the drill bit. 

    Frequently vacuum out the holes to remove brick dust.


    Excessive pressure can quickly dull your masonry bit. The trick is to take your time on this operation. Bricks resist drilling, so take frequent breaks to let the bit cool down.

    Drilling the Center of a Brick
    Lee Wallender
  2. Cut out the Brick With a Chisel

    Ideally, the drilled holes will have penetrated through the entire thickness of the brick. But you can still complete the removal even if some of the holes don't fully penetrate the full thickness.

    With a masonry chisel and hammer, lightly break out the brick between the holes, completing the cut line. Slightly angle the chisel toward the waste brick (the portion of the brick to be removed) so that you do not risk damaging the portion of the brick that will remain. Hammer blows to the chisel will usually sever the brick all the way through its thickness.

    Cutting Out Brick Dividers
    Lee Wallender
  3. Chip out the Mortar to Free the Brick

    Once you have chiseled through the brick, you still need to loosen the surrounding mortar. Mortar is usually crumbly, so it should loosen by drilling random holes into it or by chipping it out with the chisel. Be patient and lightly chip away, or use your chisel as a lever to pry the brick. A small pry bar can also be a good tool to pull out loosened mortar.

    Freeing Up the Brick
    Lee Wallender
  4. Remove the Brick by Hand

    With all of the obstructions gone, you should be able to remove the brick by hand. Some wiggling may be necessary. 

    Taking Out Brick Chunks By Hand
    Lee Wallender
  5. Smooth out the Edges of the Hole

    Use your chisel to smooth out the rough faces of the hole to an acceptable point. After about 10 minutes of careful chipping, you should have a hole with reasonably clean sides. It also helps to brush lightly with a wire brush.

    Area After Brick Is Removed
    Lee Wallender
  • Are bricks hard to cut?

    Bricks are easy to cut with the use of the right tools. Power tools offer a fast and less labor-intensive option, while using a masonry chisel allows for more controlled cuts.

  • What tools can be used to cut bricks by hand?

    A masonry chisel is the best tool to cut bricks by hand. Drilling holes into the brick before chiseling makes the process faster, but the brick can also be scored with the chisel before hammering the tool along the line.

  • How do you smooth cut bricks?

    When hand-cutting brick, gently score the line you'd like to cut with a masonry chisel before applying more pressure to break it at the line. When using power tools, a circular saw with a masonry blade can also offer clean lines.